It's a very well organised site, especially for custom figures. Every so often they hold a contest and invite customisers to come up with new figures based on a certain theme.
In the past they have had Medieval, Supernatural and well, you get the idea. Anyway, the most recent contest is Gender Bender. It asks you to make a version of an existing character but the opposite sex.
One of the rules is that you can't post your figure on any other website until voting for the winner opens, so I'm not going to put any pictures or info up just yet.
In other news, Matalan are having a half price x'mas sale and that means that their already reduced Marvel Legends were going for £2 a piece. They have the Blob series in stock so I was finally able to pick up the figures from this series. A lot of them are pretty poor figures of pretty poor characters but the £2 price tag took all of the sting out of that. A lot of decent fodder in there though.
I finished Spider-Carnage at the weekend and am very happy with how he turned out. It was almost torturously boring to paint all the webbing on the costume, but I think it came out really well and I am happy with his finished heads and paint job.
The customer seems really happy too, so I will be sending him away anon. Wish I could keep him actually.
Here comes the science bit. Concentrate.
At one time a bad guy cloned Peter Parker. Years later, Peter retired from being Spider-Man and the clone (Ben Reilly) took up the reins. He redesigned the Spider-Man costume a little until he eventually fell foul of Carnage.
Well, here we go. At one time Venom (the evil Spider-man who is a man covered in a sentient alien slime) spawned another alien slime suit that was double murderous... and.... RED!
So Spider-Man clone met Venom spawn and for a couple of issues they were Spider-Carnage: a murderous, anarchic version of Spider-Man (although I don't think he ever actually murdered anyone).
So here's my approach to this figure:
The Challenges I Envisioned From the Outset
The figure must have poseable claws. It would be simple to just put claws on the end of a spider-man figure's fingers but I don't think that's inhuman enough. I always think of Jerry Dandridge, the vampire from Fright Night as having the quinessential creepy hands with distended fingers.
Spider-man figures come in 2 varieties. Sculpted costume webs and Painted costume webs. Painted webs are truer to reality (or as real as the comics can be) but require a lot of patience and a steady hand to paint. They are also easily scratched off over time. Sculpted webs set into the figure make it easier to paint as black paint can seep into the web grooves and stay there. As Ben's costume is a little different from Peter's I would need to continue the web design in some areas, and obliterate it in others.
The customer wanted the figure to have 2 heads.
How I Dealt with the Challenges
I decided to go with this Spider-man figure as a base. Spider-Carnage keeps the same body type as Spider-man (small and skinny but well defined) so I thought this would be best.
I took a page out of the 'book of Annihilus' with the hands. I cut the fingers just above the knuckle and replaced them with cocktail sticks and flossers. This gave them a nice distended finger and sharp talon.
The base figure has sculpted webs. I had to fill these in on the legs and some areas on the torso. For the ones I'm going to have to add, I'm going to try my hand with a fine brush.
For the sculpted spider emblem, I moved slowly at first. Building up the main body in 2 parts (head and abdomen) first, then doing the lower legs, then the upper legs. I tried to keep it symmetrical and put some curve into the lower limbs to keep that nice effect that Reilly's spider emblem had. The emblem also mirrors itself on the rear of his costume, so this needed to be done twice and the legs needed to meet up on his sides.
You can also see in the pics below that at this stage I decided to rough out the areas of colour that I'm going to be using.
I had originally planned to continue the legs onto the shoulders as paint rather than sculpting, however the customer wanted the sculpted version. I was afraid this would hinder the complex joint at his shoulder that allow him a great deal of movement, however, I kept the sculpting very thin and it seems to have worked out well.
For the heads I've decided to use magnets. I tore some magnets from a cheap Maglok Warriors (or something) toy and placed one in the neck and one in each of the heads. The magnets are strong enough that the heads wont just fall off, but are still easy enough to swap around and maintain poseability. The more human of the two heads is actually the more challenging. It is easy enough to find a human looking head, but to find one with a particular expression is incredibly difficult. The head would also need an open mouth so that I could sculpt that alien crap over the opening. The picture of this head is also almost completely black so it's hard to judge what colour it's going to be. I think I am going to go with a kind of black and red web coming from his eyes and spreading over his mouth. I chose to use the 'shouting head' from a SOTA Guile figure.
Ben Reilly Head
I started with Guile's head. Took off his hair and eyebrowless neanderthal brow ridge and his Pob ears.
I then sculpted a new brow on him to put his eyes mostly in shadow. Hopefully this will make his evil eyes peer out of the dark. I had to redefine his cheeks to match his unnaturally large mouth. While it looked like a Joker mouth at this stage, I was confident it would look more alien later. I also added in forehead creases.
I then sculpted the hair. Hair is notoriously difficult to capture, but I tried to focus on a simple everyday man's hairstyle with some longer fringe parts. These were reinforced with superglue as they would easily snap otherwise. I also put the eyebrows on him to give his brow more definition.
I used hot glue to get the gloopy effect over his mouth. I again coated the hot glue in superglue to prevent it from tearing. I am officially terrible at sculpting ears so used another figure's ears.
This is my first rough attempt at setting out what the face would look like in colour. I don't really think the lower half works, but am quite happy with the upper part. While the Carnage effect should be red, I think in this case it just looks like blood and is too gory for what should be a creepy effect. Also I will have to darken the lower part of the face so that it doesn't just look like his mouth is stitched up with symbiote gunk.
I used the Spider-man head and just cut away his jaw. I built the top lip and tried to get the curve right, then made a simple frame for his jaw.
Once the jaw frame had firmed up I filled in the back of the mouth and defined the eyes. I also used my every handy flossers for the fangs. It was really difficult to get them to line up and not stick out all over the place. Something I was very conscious of was keeping the fangs at different lengths but very uniform in direction. A major difference between Venom and Carnage is that Venom's teeth go every which direction, but Carnage's remain very straight.
Lord of the Dark Dimension, the dread Dormammu!
I'm going to get this off my chest right away. I absolutely hated making this guy, but I had got it stuck in my head to make him months ago and he was something I had to get out of my system.
Dormammu presented 2 major challenges for me:
1) His head is on fire, and this is always difficult to convey in figure form. There wasn't really any already made head that would work for this. Johnny Storm is about as close as you could get, but Dormammy doesn't have a human face. Not only this, but rather than just a flaming head, it is almost more like his face is suspended in fire, so Johnny's head with a little flaming hair wasn't really going to look ok.
2)While having an inconic head, Dormammu has been cursed with a boring body for his entire comics career. It's so generic that I'm unsure why Toybiz or Hasbro haven't just cranked out a repaint of another body as Dormammu.
As you can see from my sketches I went with a more recent costume for the Dread One. This costume was seen in the comedic story 'Indefensible,' but I liked it as it had shades of Pinhead from Hellraiser with the skirt like trail behind him. The problem with this costume and all skirt type things, is that it inhibits articulation. I tried to get round this by using several layers, separated by armour sections that would still allow him to pose in any way. His trail is latex coated paper so retains flexibility and allows him to sit down.
The key to Dormammu is his head. I tried to capture the flaming effect by using hot glue over a Johnny Storm semi-transparent head. This Johnny Storm figure (I think from the Fantastic Four movie line) has an LED in his neck stalk that allows the head to retain poseability but still light up. I cut off Johnny's face and used hot glue, burning my fingers loads of times trying to tease the glue into shape by holding it upside down and wire to guide it. The glue was then painted with transparent yellow and red Tamiya paints. To make sure Dormammu's face remained visible when the LED was lit, I sculpted his face from Miliput. The light doesn't shine through this and creates the silhouetted face you can see in the pics below.
I broke the LED several times in this custom and had to tear him apart (cursing all the time) to repait it. I eventually had to invest in a cheapo soldering iron to help me out. It was marginally succesful and just as I finished the custom the LED stopped working again. GAH! The pictures you can see of it lit are from an earlier stage in the custom. I'm hoping that the LED problem is just the batteries. However, even without the light up effect, I am quite happy with his flaming head effect.
One part of the 'Indefensible' costume that I wanted to improve upon was the 'crown' surrounding the head. From reading Dormammu's early appearances I noticed that he usually had a frame-like crown around his head. I really liked this and tried to work this into the custom. I had to make and paint the crown at an early stage as the fire overlaps and engulfs it at some points. Once the hot glue was put on, it would have been impossible to paint the crown. The crown is made from flossers.
In the end, while I enjoyed the challenge, I am not totally happy with Dormammu. I may go back to him at a later stage and improve the paint apps and see if I can get the LED to work again.
But anyway, at least now Doctor Strange has some competition and Mephisto has someone to keep his throne warm.
His body is Marvel Legends Professor X. I had to redo the front of the jacket to cover that waistcoat and bring the lapels further up onto the chest.
The head and hands are X-men Classics Iceman. I changed his mouth and added eyebrows. His spiky hair is clay supported by cocktails sticks. The eyes were interesting. The anime style eyes are bigger than a realistically sculpted head will allow, so I had to paint them beyond the lines of the sculpt.
Although this is a brightly coloured cartoony character, I tried to keep the paint a little more to my style with more shading and tones than the original art has.